I have been spending the past few days thumbing through this amazing 268 page book, written in 1868 by a very racist White Southerner, an unabashed White Supremacist. Keep in mind that back in those days though, White Supremacy was simply normative for nearly all US Whites.
The impetus for this book comes out of the Radical Republican attempts at Reconstruction, which were, it is true, a disaster. Incompetent and uneducated Blacks were put in positions of power over Whites all over the South during this period, with catastrophic effects. It was not unusual to find Black judges, mayors, sheriffs, police officers, supervisors, etc., who could not even read or write. The object here was simply to humiliate the Southern Whites.
Blacks roamed all over the South aimlessly. Many, knowing nothing else, retreated to the plantations where they had been slaves, this time asking for wage labor. Encampments of them on their old plantations were not uncommon. Many others resorted to crime, often stealing only food to eat. There were many shootings by Southern Whites of Black criminals.
The South was in ruins, and Radical policy only added to the chaos. The finest of Southern White manhood was dead, wounded or hobbling around as amputees. Blacks had freedom but had not the faintest idea of what to do with it.
By the time this book was written, 1868, the Ku Klux Klan had just been formed and was beginning already to ride the torched night. Terrorist attacks on Blacks and White Radicals were growing. The North had just fought a horrible war with the South and was full of the dead and hobbling wounded themselves.
The intent of the Radicals was to humiliate the South in the traditional fashion of ancient man in war, exemplified by the Greeks.
It didn’t work.
Violent Southern reaction only produced disgust from an exhausted North. Soon after this book was written, Radical Reconstruction was ended or amended, and most troops had pulled out of the South. The North was washing their hands of the exasperating South and saying the Hell with them, moving on to their own affairs.
In the decades after this book was written, reactionary retrenchment set in, and much of the progressive changes for Southern Blacks were undone. It was not a full retreat to slavery, but it was a reaction back to Jim Crow, merely one step above.
Bearing in mind the era in which this book was written, its thesis is understandable. The author was actually a liberal for his time, as he was a Southerner who had long opposed slavery as a counterproductive and dying institution.
His solution to the Negro Question was Back to Africa, which seems racist to us, but was actually a progressive position at the time, even embraced by Lincoln. The attitude was similar to that of Herzl’s The Jewish State, where he stated that European anti-Semitism was incorrigible due to the behavior of both parties, and a divorce was the only way out.
The Back to Africa crowd had a similar mindset. Black and White in the US were interminably opposed, and Whites would never cut Blacks a square deal.
Back to Palestine in the case of the Jews, back to Africa for the Africans.
The full title of this book is The Negroes in Negroland, the Negroes in America, and Negroes Generally, also, the Several Races of White Men, Considered the Involuntary and Predestined Supplanters of the Black Races, a Compilation by Hinton Rowan Helper, a Rational Republican, Author of The Impending Crisis of the South, Nojoque, and Other Writings in Behalf of a Free and White America.
The book recites a voluminous amount of literature from early White explorers to Africa in an attempt to prove Black (apparently genetic) inferiority. His object in proving Black inferiority is to show what a crime it is to put an inferior race over a superior one in the South, and to show that inferior Blacks will never be able to succeed in America and will only degrade the country.
The various chapters on Africa were selected for the unflattering portrayal of Africans by explorers. I do not think that the explorers were making this stuff up. Indeed, Africans were living in a state of profound and debased barbarian savagery.
But so were many primitive peoples including Polynesians, Melanesians, Papuans and many Amerindian tribes.
The only lesson that can be drawn here is that Hobbes was correct about the barbaric nature of uncivilized man and his short, nasty and brutish lot.
The question arises whether the debasement of Africans was due to their genes or their culture. I suppose the best answer is both. However, reading through this, it immediately becomes clear that no matter how messed up Africa is today, Africa is immensely more civilized than it was 150 year ago. African Americans have gone much further, and do not resemble this picture much at all, although you can see hints of it in many places.
Africans’ genes have not changed much in 150 years, so much of their debased savagery must have been cultural. African Americans have actually changed genetically in the US in addition to undergoing massive cultural change whereby they lost most of their African culture and gained an American one.
One thing that I found interesting what that this very racist man actually quoted many explorers who said that quite a few African women were beautiful, and it would stand to reason that a White man could want one. They even said that African women made good wives. However, they noted that the African woman was coarse and lacked many of the finer civilized nuances of a White woman.
In particular, one notes the casual terror and murderousness of African life, the omnipresence of death and dead bodies, the minimal nature of mourning in which the dead are soon nonchalantly forgotten, the lack of compassion, romantic love and the other finer sentiments.
This got me to thinking as a race realist where US Blacks retain these qualities. In particular, White observers in Africa today remark that Blacks do not seem to have a White understanding of romantic love.
However, I know that Alpha Unit on this site has all of the finer sentiments that any White woman could have, and more so, honestly. The Black commenters on here, male and female, seem to display the finer sentiments of adequately civilized humans.
I was struck on Abagond’s site how similar the educated Black women on there were to White women in their understanding and desire for romantic love. Perhaps it’s a function of IQ or education. At any rate, I do not think that US Blacks in general, or Black women in particular, are in general lacking in the finer sentiments of romantic love vis a vis Whites.
The casualness of death and lack of compassion in these accounts was also striking, as was any lack of a real mourning period after death. This got me to wondering if US Blacks were deficient in this regard.
However, I have seen and heard many older Black mothers on TV and radio who still mourn for their dead or imprisoned children, some years after the fact. I have seen interviews where Black women in their 40’s and 50’s still keep the dead son’s room decorated with his photos and things and weep on camera for his death even 10-20 years after the fact. Although rationally one should argue that humans ought to get over it, extended and passionate mourning is definitely a finer sentiment and a sign of high civilization.
The thievery, wanton dishonesty and shocking amorality of Africans in this book is frightening. Surely, US Blacks are on average less honest, more thieving and more amoral than US Whites.
However, in this book, nearly every African encountered is essentially a laughing, guiltless, casual and amoral thief. That’s not the case with US Blacks. Many are bad, but many others are very honest to a fault, even moreso than you or me. Many US Blacks have highly developed consciences and even strong guilt complexes. I’ve even met some with the ultimate guilt neurosis, OCD.
What I am getting at here is that a lot of this shocking debasement, savagery and barbarianism of early Africa, which might seem at first to be genetic, is largely cultural. I don’t know much about Africans and Caribbeans today, but US Blacks are tremendously more civilized in their personalities and behavior than the Africans of 150 years ago.
The level of barbarism or civilization in a group often has more to do with culture than genes.